Dangerous Air Quality Alert Called For Extremely High Weed Pollen

Highest Count for Weeds Reported in History of Gottlieb Allergy Count

Article ID: 617844

Released: 13-May-2014 10:00 AM EDT

Source Newsroom: Loyola University Health System

  • A dangerous air quality alert was called in the Midwest due to the historic high count for weed pollen in the air.

Newswise — A dangerous air quality alert was called today due to the extremely high count for weeds detected in the Gottlieb Allergy Count. “Today’s weed count is the highest I have recorded in the two decades of performing the official allergy count for the Midwest,” says Joseph Leija, MD, who created the Gottlieb Allergy Count at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, located outside Chicago.

The Gottlieb Allergy Count today is Trees High, Mold High, Grass Moderate and Weeds Very High, dangerous air quality alert status. “The weed count was over 1,000 today and last year at this time the weed count was just 200,” reported Dr. Leija. “The most prevalent weed detected is Urtica, or nettle.”

The reason for the unusual weed count? “Weeds tend to be heartier than other plants and after this extreme winter, people are seeing more weeds such as nettles popping up in their yards and fields,” says Leija. “Many Midwesterners took advantage of the nice weather this weekend and mowed lawns or did yardwork including pulling weeds which can increase weed presence in the air.”

In March, at the start of the 2014 allergy reporting season, Dr. Leija predicted a pollen vortex. “The pollen vortex and that noxious cyclone of allergens is here. All pollens except ragweed are now simultaneously at recordable levels triggering unhealthy reactions in those with sensitive breathing systems,” says Leija.

Typical pollen seasons are: Trees in March to May; Grass in May to June; Weeds and Ragweed in mid-August to October and Mold all season long depending on dampness.

Leija says the continued back and forth between cold and warm temperatures combined with humidity, after the cold temperatures and snows of the polar vortex have created what he calls the pollen vortex. “The traditional seasons for the different allergens have clumped together creating a solid front of recordable levels of pollens posing problems for those with sensitive respiratory systems,” says Leija.

Every weekday morning at 4:30 a.m., for the past two decades, now 84-year-old allergist Joseph Leija, MD, has climbed the stairs to the rooftop of Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, located just outside Chicago. There he maintains a scientific pollen-catching machine developed in Britain during WW II to detect poison in the air. The machine records air particles in 2- minute increments during a 24-hour period.

Dr Leija takes the glass slide with the day’s catch – during pollen reporting season, usually April – October – and under a microscope in his office, meticulously identifies and counts every spore. He uses an algorithm created by the National Allergy Bureau, to arrive at the official allergy count for the Midwest – by 7 a.m.

“People with respiratory conditions need to know the allergy count early in the morning so they can take the right medication and make adjustments in their routine to improve their health,” says the allergist who supplies area members of the media, as well as the general public, the numbers at no charge. “Several broadcast networks and Chicago’s largest newspaper report the Gottlieb Allergy Count daily so I am up at 4 a.m.to get the process started.”

Dr. Leija is the only allergist in the Midwest certified by the National Allergy Bureau to report the official allergy count of the Midwest. He follows a complex series of algorithms to arrive at the daily allergy count and his numbers are used by the association in their daily national reports of allergy activity.

The Gottlieb Allergy Count is available through Twitter: at Gottliebhospital.org and at 1-866-4-POLLEN (476-5536).


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